Somehow a year has flown by again. They have a way of doing that the older you get. So much has happened and yet nothing has changed. I'm sitting here at the same kitchen table, looking through the same memorial book letters, praying that I am the woman I need to be.....praying that I raise my kids so they hold true to the ideals of the red, white and blue: God, family and country, especially in these times when the whole world seems tolerant of everything except for their Catholic Christian faith.
So, May 8th is my personal Memorial Day. It didn't "weigh on my mind" as much as last year's 10th Anniversary did-I was dreading that months and months before it ever came. This year the thought that "it's almost May" began the last week of March-then it came up a few more times in April, before becoming a pressing thought over the weekend....this year it was because I came down with a serious case of food poisoning.....and while moving from bed to bathroom floor to toilet and back again, I began comparing it to all the flu cases/food poisoning illnesses I've had in my entire adult life. Does anyone else do that? Well, I do. This past weekend's case rated as the number two worse case I've had. I was out of commission for several days and for the first two days I wasn't sure if it was food poisoning or a return of the nasty norovirus that the whole family caught in March for nine days. So, I know you are all just dying to know: the number one worse case was when Jason, Jessie and I, along with forty some other family members, all caught the flu from some grieving person that attended my paternal grandmother Marie's funeral. We got sick somewhere in the middle of Illinois or Indiana at a rather dumpy motel, sharing one bathroom for three days. Poor six year old Joey patiently watched cartoon network and occasionally asked us to get food from the gas station across the street and/or to order pizza. I still remember the first morning how it literally took me three hours in between getting sick to buy the poor boy breakfast. This happened about four months or so before Jason and I were married. As we were finishing the drive home to Ohio, Jason joked, "Since we survived this, our marriage can survive anything."
So, that brings me to the number three and four episodes of the worse flu. Number four was the last Christmas I got to spend with Chris. We caught the flu from someone while flying home to Wisconsin, coming down sick in just minutes of each other, and unfortunately spread it to the rest of the extended family. We had to delay Jessie's baptism from Christmas Eve to New Year's Eve and I had to get an iv for fluids since I was nursing six week old Jessie. But I remember discovering that Chris' parents had installed the heating of their newly built house in their floors-and every time I am sick now I wish for that type of heating....so much nicer to lie on warm tiles than cold. And the number three time? Well, that was the following Christmas trip-when once again the flu came to the Starkweathers house over Christmas and we all got it again. Everyone kept saying that they wished they had the kind Joey and Jessie did-they would feel sick, head to mommy and throw up on my feet/legs and then be off running and playing again. I missed Chris so much-I felt so overwhelmed at the thought of having to survive every flu/kid illness/holiday without him....how was I ever going to survive? And yet, somehow I have. God's grace.....how He gives it just when you need it....you can't go borrowing it by worrying ahead of time. I catch myself still doing that at times....wondering how would I ever be able to survive this or that....and then I have to remember I would do it the way I have survived these past thirty-six years....when that moment comes, God will supply the grace and strength I need for that moment...not one moment sooner, not one moment later.
A few months ago I needed to finally box up all of Chris' file folders that had been taking up the entire bottom drawer of my large filing cabinet. Most of the records are military things and/or the filing system that he had for all our bills over eleven years ago. Yes, most of them could probably be shredded at this point, but it was all I could do to box these up still eleven years later. One file caught my eye that I never noticed the past two times I had packed them up to move houses:
Unfortunately, it didn't have his high school keepsakes in it like I was hoping. Instead it contained:
Bellevue West Track and Cross Country Team info....from when we were stationed at Offutt Air Force Base in Bellevue, NE and Chris volunteered as an assistant coach for their cross country team.
But amazingly, it also contained this:
Chris had kept the calendar that the Belleview Cross Country team had given him....and that we had used for the year 2000. (This was obviously before I realized the importance of keeping calendars to help with scrapbooks/life history, etc.) The tears began to fall as I saw his handwriting on every page....because there was a reason he was promoted all the time-he was detailed oriented....but in September I found this:
Can you see what is written in his handwriting?
Here it is up close:
Yep, that's right...."Date night" in his handwriting, not mine, well the words "go out", aka, date night. I've been racking my brain for months now....trying to remember where we went for that birthday date. Both of us have September birthdays and I remember that it was our first date night since Joey had been born. But I can't remember where we ate or what we did. I can remember other countless dates and facts, but not this date....but here I find it thirteen years later to remind me how loved I was. How touching that my hubby wrote our date night on the calendar.....how I miss deciphering his quickly written notes to tell me he had gone for a run. (This was before the age of cell phones people-and don't we all love finding love notes even today?)
The kids are well-Joey will turn 13 next month and will probably be taller than me within the next year or so. I can already wear his shoes. Jessie is eleven and a half and becoming more beautiful each day.
Here they are playing with their lovely and lively sisters in the one short lived snow storm we got this year:
That's Jessie with three year old Anna in back and almost two year old Libby on the sled.
Here's Joey with four year old Katie on their boogie boards.
(You can see the grass peaking through-we didn't get much snow, but they made the most of it.)
We are working on a very special project for our family nicknamed: The St Nicholas Project. So, in case I don't get a chance to blog more this month I just want to encourage you to take time this coming Memorial Day to take your kids to a service, whether it is at a cemetery or a church. Take time to pray for our military-both active and deceased. Memorial Day is for the living. It is for us to pray and resolve to be better people-to be worthy of the sacrifice so many of our military are making on our behalf.
I take part in both our local Memorial Day and Veteran's Day services as a member at large of the Gold Star Wives group. I usually present a memorial wreath. This past March I was blessed to be a part of the first annual Vietnam Veteran's Day. I was asked to sing God Bless America and even though I have to sing with my eyes closed so that I don't cry, I must do okay, because they've asked me to sing again this Memorial Day. Jessie will be reading a poem and Joey will either be my escort and/or standing with the other boy scouts in uniform.
Here's Anna in front of military jeep that was there in March.
We teach our children to honor the military when we personally take the time to honor the military.
Last Father's Day 2012 I was able to visit Chris' memorial stone in Arlington Cemetary. These words struck me from General Lee's widow:
"God knows the best time for us to leave this world & we must never question either his love or wisdom. This is my comfort in my great sorrow, to know that had my husband lived a thousand years he could not have died more honoured & lamented even had he accomplished all we desired and hoped."
Chris' memorial stone is on a beautiful hillside since there isn't a body to be buried. It is near the tomb of the unknown soldier.
Here are Anna and Katie by the tree-you can see our flowers around Chris' stone in the background.
Above is Anna and Libby playing in the rocks outside of Arlington House. I can't believe how much hair Libby grew in this past year until I saw her bald head in these pictures!!!
Below is my best friend (other than my hubby Jason), Mike Cleary, while Joey plays with the rocks and acorns with the little ones under the shade of the tree-just as he did when we were there and he was three.
And, just so I don't get accused of never posting any pictures of myself. Here I am at the National Basilica with the kids earlier that morning:
And here we are with Jason this past Easter (yep, still look the same-some things just don't change:)
Jessie and Joey:
May you feel the sweetness of your loved ones always with you this spring,